Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School Great Hall Renovation
Architecture Firm(s): tonic design
Owner: Wake County Public School System
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Category: Up to $150,000 in construction cost
To maximize a federal grant and a summer break construction timeline, this project relied on subtle alterations to radically enhance a dull and poorly lit high school entry hall. This project followed the school principal’s vision for transforming a space that celebrated athletic achievement into a model of collaboration. Today, more than 1,500 students are greeted with comfortable places to engage with one another.
The team was challenged to create a welcoming and exciting space to bolster the school’s image and reflect a number of academic pathways. Through a number of university partnerships, the school presents students with authentic experiences to develop their ability to think critically and collaborate. The principal hopes the great hall's collegiate aesthetic will further encourage students to pursue higher education.
“With modest means, the architect brings cohesion to a dark, underutilized space. The design is a light, airy, neutral backdrop to the dynamic life that is encouraged by the discrete interventions. The design intent is clearly defined and executed, simple, yet transformative.” - Jury comment
Before the team’s intervention, the space lacked any spaces for students to sit, and trophy cases, dusty and overlooked, lined the perimeter. Students, if they lingered in the space at all, would often sit on the floor. Now every seat in the light and airy space is a coveted one. The material palette of perforated metal, LED strip lights, and maple plywood create a unified composition. Because of the tight budget, the team reused a number of existing elements, grafting new steel onto the existing stair and fitting seating into the existing masonry openings that once housed the trophy cases.
As a new living room for the school, the space fosters a positive learning environment. Students can be regularly found eating, working, or relaxing in the hall, while the seating nooks provide secure spaces for conversations that are also visually connected to the rest of the space.
“With simple and smart design moves, the space was transformed into something very elegant with a big impact on how students occupy the space. This space went from something you want to move through rather quickly (or not at all) to a common area worth spending time in.” - Jury comment